Top 10 sections for a requirement specification
Whenever you are starting the development of a new product it is vital that you have captured the essential needs of that product so that there is a single, consistent and clear view of what needs to be delivered. Taking the time to write a requirements specification for your electronics product, ideally in collaboration with the technical team delivering it, will pay dividends. This specification becomes the guidance document for implementation decisions and should form the basis for product acceptance testing.
Here are the top 10 sections every requirement specification should include.
A brief statement of what the product is for. This ensures that everyone has a clear idea of the application of the product and the particular problem it solves.
The key functional elements of the product are described here, this allows the team to build-up a block diagram of the product with sufficient detail to have confidence that each element is fit for its declared purpose.
3. User interaction
Who are the users? What will they do with the product? What user interfaces will be required?
Is this a product with a HD display or is it completely headless i.e. with no user interface? Do you require capacitive touch sensing, voice control, a keyboard and mouse.
4. Form factor : Size, shape, materials
How big is the product? What will it be made from? Is it an interesting ergonomic shape or is it for industrial use and so in a large rectangular plastic/metal box?
The form factor may require a design to be separated into a number of different printed circuit boards so that it fits within the enclosure. A membrane keypad, flexible or flex-rigid pcbs may be needed.
A metal box may be useful for some applications to help with electromagnetic compatibility and shielding of noise. But, it may cause issues for radio based products with internal antenna.
What are the flammability requirements for the product?
5. Known applicable standards and legislation
What is the intention for CE marking the product? Are there known EU standards which must be met? Is this product for use in an explosive atmosphere requiring ATEX approvals?
Can the product be supplied with a self-certified CE declaration with a supporting technical file or does it need third party notified body testing?
6. Power supply
How is the product being powered?
For a battery powered application how long should the batteries last? Should batteries be user replaceable? Are there limitations on battery chemistry for safety reasons.
Is the product mains powered? Is there a secondary backup battery for mains failure?
Does the product use energy harvesting from solar panels, vibration, temperature, radio waves?
7. Interfaces and connections
What is the product connected to? Is there a serial interface for setup or is this WiFi?
What inputs and outputs are required for the product to respond to or control?
8. Operational Environment
What temperature range is the product required to work over? Are there extreme minimum or maximum temperatures?
Is the product used at high altitudes, underwater, in space or in other challenging environments?
9. Geographical region(s)
Where is the product going to be sold and used?
Product approvals and available radio spectrum are different around the world.
10. Target product cost and annual quantities
What is the target manufactured cost for the unit? This will inform some of the engineering decisions on performance. It will be different for a high-end application versus a budget, disposable one.
With all of the above covered in sufficient detail you now have a requirements specification. Your engineering team can use it to determine the product architecture, identify key functional elements and to highlight any concerns or risks to the project.
Having this requirements specification for your electronics product helps in many ways:
- It removes ambiguity from the conversation. Everyone knows what they are working on.
- This reduces the chances of having to re-do some of the work. If everyone knows what they are aiming to achieve, stages will not be put forward as complete unless they achieve what is required.
- That saves time and, ultimately, money.
- It also means you can get your product to market faster.
This specification will likely change over the product development. So, it is essential to keep this updated and version controlled during the development.
Before I finish, I just want to remind you that no specification removes the need for regular dialogue between the technical and commercial team, the functionality should be described in sufficient detail to allow the product implementation to be planned and for the delivery team to be able to ask questions around the required functionality.
If you’d like to know how we can help businesses with requirement specifications, please get in touch.
The Three Factors determining success or failure for a new electronics product
We talk to lots of people with ideas for a new electronic product. Some of them are non-starters, some will do okay and a small few could become game-changers. However, there are three factors that will impact the success of your new product – with most thought going into just one of them.
1. Product development
This is where most entrepreneurs spend all their time. How can they make their product as good as it can be? What functionality needs to be in the minimum viable product (MVP) or prototype? What’s the development path from there?
Of course, this is a critical part of the success of your product. Putting a poor product onto the market is a quick way to lose your shirt.
Product development is not an easy process. If it was, we wouldn’t exist. Getting the specification right, the electronics and firmware fully functional and the manufacturing happening cost-effectively and efficiently takes time and money. There will be multiple iterations of the design which often changes with early user feedback and as requirements crystallise. The electronics will need at least one update as components sometimes don’t do what their datasheet claims. There can be tweaks to ensure boards fit properly within enclosures and radio antenna are matched and fettled for performance – with power supply, products are expected to last longer and longer from batteries that haven’t changed in years.
However, you have to get this right, or you have no future.
We’ve already alluded to this in the cost of development. But let’s look at it in more detail. We are assuming that you haven’t got unlimited resources and haven’t won the EuroMillions in the last few weeks.
The Money Stages in product development
- Development: it costs money to develop a product. This will, almost certainly, need to be your money because investors rarely invest based purely on an idea. Some may invest at the design stage, but most will expect you to have, at least, a working prototype before they hand over any cash. You will need to invest your own money (or family/friend’s money) to get to the point where external financing is likely.
- Manufacturing: setting up the manufacturing takes further investment. Tooling up is not a cheap process and needs to be paid for.
- Inventory: you need stock to be able to sell. That stock must be made by your manufacturer and, again, they will expect to be paid up front. You must fund that inventory from the first raw materials order to the point the cash starts flowing inward.
- Sales: Hurrah – money is flowing in rather than out, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Is there enough coming in? If there is more flowing out than you have available before the money flows in, you’re in trouble. Cashflow is the biggest killer of businesses – bar none!
- Positive cashflow: by this we mean there is more money available than is needed. Your bank balance starts to move back towards the black. Let’s hope this continues.
This area is normally left until there is something to sell. That is a huge mistake. It should start from day one, alongside product development where MVPs are regularly tested with potential customers to form the product from their feedback.
Marketing is the process whereby you make your target audience aware and interested in the product. Getting people interested will help sales once you have a product. After all, the sooner the sales start, the sooner there is cash flowing back into the business
Use marketing to get people actively excited
Talking about the product is no good. Talking about how the product solves a problem is good. You want people waiting with bated breath for the launch of your product. Carefully crafted marketing will do that for you.
If you wait until you have a product, you are delaying the success of your product and you don’t want that.
You need to remember all three of these points
If you get these three right, you have a product on the market with an audience looking to buy. If you’ve only concentrated on the product development, you’re still a long way off.
Do you need help with a new electronics product?
If you would like to know more about how Ignys can help you make your new electronic product a success, get in touch today.